Effective Speaking: Volume Control

If there’s one simple thing that anyone – anyone – could do right away to be a more effective speaker, it would be to simply learn to able increase and decrease the volume of their voice on command.

In theater, this is called vocal projection, because your goal is to “project” your voice all the way to the back of the venue so that everyone can hear you clearly.

It doesn’t matter how great a speaker you are; if people can not hear you, they will not get anything out of your presentation. Even if they can kind of hear you, if they have to focus and struggle they’ll get frustrated and stop paying attention.

As an improv comedian, I learned this lesson early on. We would perform in small coffeehouses and large theaters, indoors and outdoors, in for quiet audience and for raucous groups. Improv doesn’t lend itself well to proper staging, acoustics, or mics, so we learned how to make sure everyone could hear us, all on our own.

Even if you never plan on being a performer or think you will only speak from time to time, there are a few great reasons to still practice increasing your volume:

It Gives You Authority

People who can be louder (without shouting) sound more confident, powerful, and in charge. These are all great qualities to have when you are speaking.

Microphones Can Fail

You may be assuming that you will always have a mic at your disposal. Bad assumption. Sometimes the planner assumes you won’t need one. Sometimes they have one and it won’t work. I once spoke at an outdoor event where the company brought a portable mic/speaker system. It didn’t work well and kept cutting in and out. The speaker before me wasn’t loud enough to go without, so he had to struggle with the bad system. I just bellowed without it. One of the most frequent comments I received afterward was “thank you for being so clear and easy to hear.”

Technology is great, but don’t rely 100% on it.

Volume Control Can Add Power

If you can increase and decrease the volume of your voice, you can add drama and effect to your stories and points. Increase your volume to make a powerful point. Decrease it while telling a moving story.

When you have control, your voice becomes one more tool in your tool box.

Working on your volume may not sound like an exciting way to develop as a speaker, but trust me: give it a try, and you’ll see people respond to your presentations more than you ever have before.

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Creativity Exercises: Simple Word Associations

Word association is what I consider to be the first creativity building exercise. It’s actually a simple improv comedy drill.

You can do a word association with a partner. First you say a word, and then your partner says the first word that comes to his mind, then you say the first word, then he says the first word, then you say the first word, and so on and so on. The goal is to go as fast as possible, listen to your partner, not pre-think of what you will say, and just say the first thing that comes to your mind. That’s really all there is too it.
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Improv Games: Scenes Without the Letter

“Scenes Without the Letter” is one of my absolute favorite improv games. I would often use this game to open shows, so you know it’s fun! In addition to being fun, it is one of the most useful exercises to teach people to take risks and put failure in perspective..

Purpose

The point of this game is to demonstrate that it’s not whether we succeed or fail, but how we make our attempts that make the difference.

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Improv Games: “Yes, And”

“Yes and” is a simple but incredibly powerful improv game that quickly demonstrated the difference between saying, “yes, and” and “yes, but.” In almost every single one of my keynote presentations and workshops, this is the exercise that gets the best feedback. Give it a try!

Purpose

The purpose of this game is to demonstrate the powerful difference of changing your mind-set from “yes, but” to “yes, and.”

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Effective Speaking: 7 Ways Improv Comedy Can Make You a Better Speaker

Effective speaking isn’t all that complicated. It really just takes developing and practicing a few core skills. The challenge is that a) a lot of people don’t what these skills are and b) these skills aren’t commonly taught.

One great place to learn this skills is through improv comedy. Whether you find a class in your local area, use the Improv for Speakers DVD, or attend The Speaking School, improv comedy can help you be a better speaker in many ways:
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Improv Lessons: Pay Attention!

One of the most basic principles to great improvisation, on stage or off, is to simply pay attention! Even though it is simple, it is so hard for people to grasp.

In an improv comedy sense, paying attention means listening – and fully hearing – what your fellow performers are saying and doing, observing the audience’s reactions, and being aware of the environment and reality you are creating on stage. Most new improvisers (and, sadly, many experienced ones) pay attention to only one thing: their own thoughts!
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Improv Game: Ding!

“Ding” is one of my favorite games, both to play and also to use as a tool to show people how to apply improv lessons to business and life. You can see a video example along with more explanation below the written description.

Purpose

The purpose of this exercise is to practice staying in the moment, letting go of ideas, changing direction quickly, and flowing with your creativity.
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Career Advice from the World of Improv Comedy!

Recently, MSN.com posted an article by CareerBuilder.com editor, Kate Lorenz, titled, “10 Hangups That Cripple Workers.” What struck me as interesting is that every single one of these “career hangups” can be addressed by simply using basic principles from improvisational comedy. Of course I see the entire world through the filter of improv comedy! However, in this case, I’m pretty sure I’m right. Take a look at the ten hangups below, along with my “improv solution,” and see if you agree.

For each point, I’ve listed an improv game or exercise that directly addresses the issue. (Note: You can see examples of the games on the video page)

Here are the 10 “Hangups”:

1. Wallowing in the Past

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Better Relationships Through Improv Comedy!

Valentine’s Day is approaching, so I have decided to share some ideas on how to use improv comedy to be a good “Valentine” It’s a little (or a lot) different from the traditional “Improv for Business” stuff, but if an improviser can’t act outside-of-the-box once in a while, who can? :-)

Here are the “Better Relationships Through Improv Comedy!” Tips!

Put Your Focus on Your Partner

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Applying Improv Comedy Principles to Business

Improv comedy is a form of theater where a group of performers take the stage with nothing prepared in advance and use audience suggestions to instantly create comedy. If you’ve ever seen the TV show, ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’ you’ve seen improv comedy. Improv is fast, funny, and quite often ridiculous.

The first reaction people have to hearing about improv comedy being applies to business is, ‘Come on now, business is serious. How can improv comedy apply to that?’

Well, the answer is quite simple. The key to successful improv is the willingness to take risks, the understanding of how to tap into your own creative resources, and the ability to listen to and work well with other people. Show me a person in business who couldn’t benefit from having the willingness to take risks, the ability to tap into their creativity, and the skill to listen and work with others.
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